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"Economical" Mathematics

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One of the sites I visit regularly is the Numb3rs blog, written by a mathematician at Northeastern University. The site deals with the math topics that arise in the show of the same name. (No link given, for reasons below.) He does a great job of explication, and provides some interesting links. It certainly makes the show more enjoyable knowing that there is a good independent reference for the material.

But I find this odd:

Numb3rs appears on CBS which is part of CBS-Paramount, a very large corporate entity, as is TI. Neither supports this blog in any way even though your blogmeister reviews scripts for mathematical content gratis for the show. I do this as an effort to promote the understanding of mathematics -- the same reason I write this blog. In spite of several requests, neither CBS nor TI will provide a link on any of their websites to this blog; they won't even mention it as a resource. What's even more surprising is that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), a group supposedly dedicated to mathematics education, and tied rather closely to TI, has also refused to reference this blog as a resource for mathematics education.

I suppose this could simply be another case of old media not quite understanding the value of having numerous in-roads for new viewers. The number of math blogs has blossomed of late (witnessed by the flourishing -- and highly entertaining -- Carnival of Mathematics), much like economics blogs in 2005/2006. CBS and Texas Instruments are, of course, private entities free to link to whomever and whatever they wish. Though, if they want to willingly ignore -- while relying on the expertise of -- their best ambassador, I'll feel free to ignore linking to their sites.

And while I don't find it at all surprising, I do think the most telling piece of information is the fact that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics are so dense as to ignore the value of something like the Numb3rs blog. While Dr. Bridger makes some note of the NCTM's connections with TI, I can't speak to it directly -- unfortunately, I also have no reason to doubt it, either.

Aside: Access to the NCTM's documented standards for math education is pay-for-play. Seems they've learned a bit of economics themselves. Though not enough; free dissemination of the work might promote wider adoption. Never forget that not-for-profit is not equivalent to not-for-revenue. End aside.

That a public group has decided to shun connections to anyone outside their direct control is sad, though not at all unusual. Perhaps the decision to ignore Dr. Bridger's site is a remnant of the rift NCTM had with groups of actual mathematicians who disagreed with their attempts to revive the New Math teaching paradigm. The narrow view emphasizes the fact that groups like the NCTM are largely more concerned with their own existence than in achieving their stated goals. What could possibly hurt in showing kids the work that actual, employed mathematicians do on a day to day basis? Unless, of course, that means they get exposed to things that contradict the "consensus" view of the NCTM.

-The NCTM recommends "decreased attention" for "finding exact forms of answers". (5.8.O)

I'm sure this is comforting to anyone who relies on, well, anything built by engineers.

Assorted and Interesting

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Sex and Statistics

In the Chimp world;

“In contrast to humans, the researchers found, male chimps find older females more desirable, approaching them more often to mate, fighting more with other males over them and mating with them far more frequently than with younger females. That is true even for higher-ranking male chimps, which have more choice of mates. The findings confirm the earlier results of other researchers.

"Multiple lines of evidence indicate that unlike humans, female chimpanzees become more sexually attractive with age," the researchers report in the Nov. 21 issue of the journal Current Biology. "This study demonstrates that male chimpanzees do not merely disdain young females, but actively prefer older mothers to younger mothers."

In the Human world;

Braving "robbing the cradle" jokes, almost one-third of women between ages 40 and 69 are dating younger men (defined as 10 or more years younger). According to a recent AARP poll, one-sixth of women in their 50s, in fact, prefer men in their 40s…

But what about the notion that men are "hard-wired" to seek a smooth-faced, curvy receptacle for reproduction and thus are drawn to younger women? "Humans are relatively flexible species," Michael R. Cunningham, Ph.D., a psychologist in the department of communications at the University of Louisville, tells WebMD. "Factors other than biological can be attractive. You can override a lot of biology in pursuit of other goals."

People who know the subject should teach?

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Andrew Leigh links to an article about a program called “Math for America”, whose goal is to improve the quality of maths teachers in US;

“Math for America started over a game of poker. In 2003, Simons was in Berkeley, Calif., raising money in a charity poker tournament, playing against other heavyweights from the New York investment world. When he looked around the room, it struck him that the assembled brainpower and capital could be used for greater good. Chatting with a few other former mathematicians, Simons put forth an idea to improve the state of math education in America. It was a notion he'd unsuccessfully tried to publish as a New York Times editorial a few years before: Have the people who know the subject teach the subject, and provide them with the money, training, and support they need to do so.

Math for America addresses a simple, but profound problem: Nearly 40 percent of all public high school math teachers do not have a degree in math or a related field. Even the best curriculum in the world, the reasoning goes, isn't going to inspire students if unqualified individuals are teaching them. (In a recent round of testing, the U.S. placed 24th out of 29 nations in math proficiency.) If knowledgeable teachers exude passion for the subject, they stand a greater chance of pushing students toward careers in math in science that are the technical backbone of the country's economy.”

It’s an interesting idea but I’m not sure whether it will be that successful. People who know the subject are not necessarily the best teachers.

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